2017 Kentucky Derby & Oaks: Danonymous Handicappers Weigh In

2017 Kentucky Derby & Oaks Picks

Handicappers Weigh In

This is the biggest weekend on the U.S. racing calendar and Danonymous Racing has polled some of our contributors for their top selections on Kentucky Derby weekend. Each of the esteemed handicappers and racing personalities we’ve called upon has provided their trifecta (top three selections) for both Friday’s Kentucky Oaks and Saturday’s Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs. We thank all of our friends and partners for sharing their insights with Danonymous Racing viewers, and we wish “good luck” to everyone getting in on the action this weekend.

John Piassek (@theyreoff)

Kentucky Oaks:

#4- Paradise Woods

#10- Miss Sky Warrior

#13- Abel Tasman

Kentucky Derby:

#17- Irish War Cry

#14- Classic Empire

#15- McCraken

Robert Criscola (@itsgood2beking)

Kentucky Oaks:

#10- Miss Sky Warrior
enters off five straight victories, four at the graded level. She can win from just about anywhere, as evidenced by her gritty score in the Davona Dale at Gulfstream, an exits an authoritative triumph in the Gazelle.

#4- Paradise Woods
also romped in her latest outing, the Santa Anita Oaks, which was her first start beyond six furlongs. Her pedigree suggests that win was no fluke, but she’s likely to be tested much more sternly in the early going this time around. With little foundation under her belt, she could be vulnerable late.

#13- Abel Tasman
has endured tough trips in her two starts this year, and drawing post 13 didn’t do her any favors. She’ll also have to turn the tables on PARADISE WOODS, who crushed her in the Santa Anita Oaks. However, she stands to get plenty of pace to work with here, so look for her to at least pick up a minor award late.

#14- Salty
is another one who drew poorly but was too impressive in winning the Gulfstream Park Oaks to leave out entirely.

Kentucky Derby:

#2- Thunder Snow
intrigues shipping in from Dubai off a narrow win in the UAE Derby. The horse he beat there, Epicharis, was 4-for-4 and had won a Derby points race in Japan prior to the UAE Derby. THUNDER SNOW has won three straight stakes races and seems to get better each time he’s given more ground to work with.

#10- Gunnevara
deserves a mulligan for his Florida Derby defeat. Prior to that start, GUNNEVERA looked like a top contender off a convincing score in the Fountain of Youth and a troubled-but-courageous second in the Holy Bull. Javier Castellano staying aboard is a confidence-booster.

#1- Lookin at Lee
has underachieved this year but he could be a handful if he gets a clean trip. His pedigree says he’d be best at middle distances, but the way he runs suggests he’ll step it up at 1 1/4 miles.

#11- Battle of Midway
has the so-called “Curse of Apollo” to overcome, having not raced at age two. However, he is the only horse I would consider betting out of the poorly-rated Santa Anita Derby. He was unnecessarily involved in a spirited pace duel that day but didn’t capitulate until the very end. BATTLE OF MIDWAY gets distance influence on both sides of his pedigree and displayed promise in prior starts.

Aaron Hayes (@AHaze24)

Kentucky Oaks:

#13- Abel Tasman
 She broke slowly in the Santa Anita Oaks and spotted the field 3 lengths. Despite her style from closing from off the pace, that was a little too much to ask for her as Paradise Woods had her own way on the lead. That was her 1st race in the Bob Baffert, barn and with Big Money Mike Smith aboard. The pace in this race will be hot, and that should be ideal for her to sit off the speed and close strongly down the Churchill stretch.


#10- Miss Sky Warrior
She’s coming into the Oaks with a 5 race winning streak with the last being a 13 length romp in the Gazelle. She will not be alone on the front end, however she is battle tested and has shook off  foes when on the lead. If the pace is too fast, she also has the ability to sit right off the lead in a stalking position. Another plus that I like is that she has race at 1 1/8 mile twice, so distance should not be a problem.


#7- Farrell
Winner of 4 in a row and 5 of the last 6, Farrell has been professional in all of her wins. With an average winning distance of 4+ lengths, she really hasn’t been tested at all. Having 2 wins over the Churchill surface helps, with one of those victories coming in the mud.

Kentucky Derby:

#14- Classic Empire
The 2-year-old champ was an impressive winner in the Arkansas Derby. That race was a perfect setup for what he will see Saturday. Leparoux sat 7th right behind a wall of horses up the backstretch and closed without too much asking to win by a half-length. I drew a line through his Holy Bull race, where he raced evenly on his 1st off a layoff to race a dry 3rd. His style of sitting right off the pace should give him an ideal trip. Being a 3-time Grade 1 winner, he’s easily the class of the Derby.


#15- McCraken
Despite winning the Sam F Davis at Tampa Bay, he had some slight issues that sidelined him coming out of that race. Took some time off and ran a gallant 3rd in the Blue Grass to get the points needed to enter the Derby. With the last race under his belt, he should be primed to return back to his winning ways. The turn of foot McCraken has is perfect for this race. He’ll be sitting anywhere from 8th to 13th and will be making his move stoutly around the turn into the stretch.


#2- Thunder Snow
The Godolphin barn was red hot at Kenneland, and looks to transfer those winnings to Churchill. UAE horses haven’t fared too well in the Derby but this crop of 3 year old isn’t that strong, and this could be the year that they’ll be represented with a placing on the board. He has won his last 3 races and his last loss was to a talented horse named Churchill. He’s been looking sharp during his morning workouts on the track and looks to run a big one on Saturday.

Jimmy Williams (@matt918476)

Kentucky Oaks:

#12- Daddy’s Lil Darling
expect enough pace in this spot and an off track, if can get a clean trip which is always tricky in large field and from this outpost , I think she is charging strongest late. Ran at Churchill and it was in the mud, filly always runs her race and should again .

#14- Salty
Moved very easily to take over in the Gulfstream Oaks, which is not an easy surface to move like that, if can take same moves over Churchill surface and handle off going can be tough, post scares me, but think might be that good.

#7 Farrell
Yes easy Fair Grounds wins, but has ran and won at Churchill and can handle off going it seems. Loved how chilly Channing Hill was last time while rating and untouched to cruise past.

Kentucky Derby:

#10 Gunnevara
I do wish this one was in better hands in regards to trainer, but I will take Javy and good post here. This colt’s moves in the Saratoga Special and Fountain of Youth have me a believer.

#15 McCraken
Release him Mr. Wilkes, wasn’t cranked in last, ready now and from all reports loves it at Churchill, also 3-3 there. Explosive turn off foot when right, a key in Derby, I expect him to be right .

#14 Classic Empire
If he behaves pre-race, might be the class of this group. Has the tactical speed to be forwardly placed, which helps.

Richard Mattei (@richmattei16)

Kentucky Oaks:

#6- Vexatious

#14- Salty

#2- Lockdown

Kentucky Derby:

#2- Thunder Snow

#13- J Boys Echo

#15- McCraken

Nicolle Neulist (@rogueclown)

Kentucky Oaks:

#7- Farrell
has been stellar in all of her two-turn starts, and she should relish the stretch out to nine furlongs.  She can send to the front or sit just off the speed, and she has form both on slop and at Churchill.
#4- Paradise Woods
dazzled in the Santa Anita Oaks; if she does not regress from that effort, she stands out as Farrell’s biggest competition.
#10- Miss Sky Warrior
has class to prove against the best fillies of her class, but she has won her last five races, including two at the nine-furlong distance of the Kentucky Oaks.

Kentucky Derby:

#17- Irish War Cry
outside post draw should help him: expect him to sit outside in touch with the leaders, get a clean trip, and have the stamina to close the deal late.  He has the pedigree to handle a wet track, as well.

#10- Gunnevara
has been as consistent as anyone on the Derby trail this year, and should get more pace to chase than he did in the Florida Derby.

#14- Classic Empire
post draw is excellent, the outside of the main gate, and he has both wet-track form and form at Churchill.

Steve Pozzuoli (@pozzmeister)

Kentucky Oaks

#7-  Farrell

#10- Miss Sky Warrior

#4- Paradise Woods

Kentucky Derby

#16- Tapwrit

#15- McCraken

#19- Practical Joke

Rob Harding (@Harding_Rob)

Kentucky Oaks:

#14- Salty
#11- Tequilita
#12- Daddys Lil Darling
Kentucky Derby:
#15 McCraken
#16 Tapwrit
#1 Lookin At Lee
Rob MacLennan (@RobMacASD)
Kentucky Oaks:
#4- Paradise Woods
#13- Abel Tasman
#10- Miss Sky Warrior
Kentucky Derby:
#19- Practical Joke
#10- Gunnevara
#5- Always Dreaming

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